One month into the 2019-20 NHL season, several clubs are garnering attention for their surprising strong starts. The Edmonton Oilers enter this week jockeying with the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres are jostling for the top spot with the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.
Their performances have overshadowed those of the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes. Both clubs spent the past several seasons rebuilding with youth. The Canucks (9-3-2) begin this week sitting third in the Western Conference with 20 points while the Coyotes (8-4-1, 17 points) are close behind.
Are the Canucks and Coyotes for real? Are their rebuilding efforts finally bearing fruit? Or will they tumble down the standings as the season progresses against better talented and experienced opponents?
Both clubs owe their respective starts to strong goaltending. Coyotes tandem Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta combined 2.15 goals-against per game is the league's second-best while the Canucks' Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko are close behind with 2.36.
They're also solid defensively. Off-season additions Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn, as well as the rise of budding star Quinn Hughes, have the Canucks perched with the 10th-best shots-against per game (30.2). Led by blueliners Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers, and Jacob Chychrun, the Coyotes are 13th (30.5) in that category.
Both teams are clicking with the man advantage. The Canucks' 23.3 power-play percentage ranks 10th while the Coyotes (22.5) are 12th overall.